INUCE ∙ Dirk U. Moench has won the Third Award for the Project Christian Community Centre – Huaxiang Church at International Architecture Awards 2018 hosted by Architecture Podium with the idea of acknowledging the works of professionals and students of architecture. IAA is an all exclusive design competition, analysing and comparing the conceptual and built works of professionals. The competition received a total of 586 Registrations from across the globe. Architecture Podium has gained a Big name among the Architecture Awards Internationally with Winners from renowned Studios like Aedas, TerreformOne, Rockwell Group, Pepe Gascon Arquitectura, Morphogenesis, Dada & Partners, Nadaaa, XTEN Architecture, Mecanoo, ABIBOO Architecture and many more from across the globe.
Original Article: Architecture Podium
About the project:
When Fuzhou’s Huaxiang Church was built in 1938, its steeple was the only vertical structure emerging from an ocean of traditional Ming-style residences. Since then its congregation became witness of the radical transformations in city and society: From decades of urban deterioration to an unprecedented era of prosperity and development; from the complete suppression of religious activity during the Cultural Revolution to a miraculous ten-fold growth of the number of Christians in the years since. Today, the little building finds itself at the bottom of a veritable maze of shopping malls and office blocks. In dire need for additional space, the congregation decided to build a supporting community centre on a plot of land adjacent to the historical building.
Conflicts and Contradictions in the Eye of The Storm
The challenges imposed on the project were extraordinary: Firstly, the functional and spatial requirements were conflicting with height and area restrictions imposed by the heritage authority. Secondly, surrounded by obstacles on all sides, the building would hardly be visible from the public streets. Thirdly, the adjacency to the old church and an uncommunicative environment of buildings high and low, modern and traditional, Eastern and Western, demanded a clear attitude regarding the relationship of old and new architecture.
OLD & NEW: Rethinking Tradition to Embody the Community’s Changing Self-Perception
Our design harmonizes such imbalances by adopting the role of an urban mediator: Subtly folding its contours and modulating its vertical development in a continuous up-and-down movement, the volume is visually scaled down into fragments, allowing this seven-times larger structure to relate in proportion and silhouette to the tiny church at its side. The fragments decrease in height the closer they are to the historic building, showcasing its bell tower and evoking the impression of an organically grown skyline.
The centre’s façade is finished in red granite similar to the old church – tumbled down to smooth pebbles and applied to the walls using a pebble dash technique once typical for the local architecture and now almost entirely forgotten. In a religious sense, this infinitude of pebbles translates into matter the dual nature of the word “Church”, which refers not only to the single building itself, but also to the sum of all individual Christians which compose it. On a human level, it gives the Community Centre a haptic quality, warm and comforting to the human hand and always provoking a smile on the faces of adults and children who touch it.
Functionally, the organization of the building corresponds to the client’s needs by providing a range of multifunctional spaces. As a central piece of this strategy, the roof top areas are conceived as publicly accessible open-air amphitheaters allowing the community to hold outdoor assemblies or enjoy being elevated from the worries of the world below. Seen from the neighbouring buildings, however, it constitutes a dramatic stage of urban proportions, upon which the community demonstrates its faith and shares its joy with the city. The new community centre therefore embodies a change in the congregation’s self-perception and in their mission as Chinese Christians: from a protective minority that hid in the seclusion of their halls, to a community that now wants to open its heart to the world, reach out and invite to join. Only a few months after completion the roofscape has already become a popular hang- out place for the youth and serves as viewing platform from which locals and tourists enjoy an unobstructed view onto the city’s historic district.